Their eyes dart back and forth. They look at their mobile phones, look at the price tags, and repeat as necessary.

They’re digital bargain hunters on the scent of the lowest price on pretty much everything. You can find them in just about any store as they engage in “showrooming,” part of their exhaustive product research that includes physically inspecting the merchandise at a brick-and-mortar store before buying it — often online.

Anatomy of an Omni-Shopper 10-03-2013.jpg
SAP created “The Anatomy of an Omni-Shopper” infographic to help retailers provide a more consistent and personalized customer experience.

“For many retailers, curtailing showrooming is the main — if not only — reason to develop and support a robust mobile platform, especially during the holidays,” E-Commerce Times stated Tuesday. “Others, though, take a longer view and realize the benefits of establishing a relationship with consumers.”

Cultivating relationships with customers — who have so many choices of where and how to buy — will be crucial as retail and technology continue to evolve.

Knowing Your Customer

Multi-channel purchasing options — such as in-store, online and mobile — would improve the customer experience for 70 percent of online shoppers, according to an SAP-sponsored study released Friday. And 44 percent of all purchases within five years will involve more than one channel.

“What must be a top consideration for retailers today is to ensure that customers can shop across multiple channels and still enjoy a consistent and cohesive experience,” SAP Business Development Manager Chris Osborne said in a statement. “Understanding this trend will help retailers to retain customers even if purchases aren’t necessarily made in store.”

Consumers seem to understand that improving customer relationships means that retailers must collect personal data, and 96 percent of shoppers expect this — though 79 percent say customer information needs to become more transparent. The top three pieces of personal information consumers expect retailers to collect were:

  • Online purchase history (65 percent)
  • Payment details (60 percent)
  • In-store purchase history (43 percent)

Neither of this data nor showrooming heralds impending doom for brick-and-mortar stores.

Knowing Your Enemy

“Only about 6 percent of people using a smartphone while in a store at any given time are planning to take their commerce to the Internet,” Businessweek stated last month. “Most smartphone-equipped shoppers are simply looking for reviews or online coupons, often from the Web site of the store they’re in.”

Retail stores are fighting back against showrooming with loyalty programs, price-matching policies and mobile apps to promote in-store purchasing. So where many may still see doom and gloom, people like SAP’s Kai Goerlich see opportunity.

“Showrooming drives innovation,” Goerlich wrote in April. “Learning from it might give some retailers a competitive edge.”

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher. Like this story? Sign up for the SAP Business Trends newsletter here.

Related Media:

Global Retailing: The Promise of Omni-Commerce

Why Showrooming Is Good For Retail

What Every CEO Should Expect From Their CMO

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